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China overtakes US as world's biggest polluter

According to researchers at the University of California, China's greenhouse gas emissions moved ahead of the United States' in 2006, making it the world's top carbon emitter.

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China has already surpassed the United States as the world's largest carbon polluter, the authors of a California study said Tuesday.

"Our best forecast has China’s CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions correctly surpassing the United States in 2006 rather than 2020 as previously anticipated," said the study by researchers at the University of California.

The report, written by economic professors Maximilian Aufhammer of UC Berkeley and Richard Carson of UC San Diego, is to be published next month in the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management.

Researchers compiled information about the use of fossil fuels in various Chinese provinces and forecast an 11 percent annual growth of carbon emissions from 2004 to 2010.

Previous estimates had set the growth rate at 2.5 to five percent.

The spike in air pollution by China has largely cancelled out efforts by other countries' attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol, the authors said.

The researchers predicted that by 2010, "there will be an increase of 600 million metric tons of carbon emissions in China over the country's levels in 2000."

That growth would "dramatically overshadow the 116 million metric tons of carbon emissions reductions pledged by all the developed countries in the Kyoto Protocol," the report said.

"Put another way, the projected annual increase in China alone over the next several years is greater than the current emissions produced by either Great Britain or Germany.

The researchers studied pollution data from China's 30 provincial entities in order to obtain a more precise snapshot of greenhouse gas emissions.

"Everybody had been treating China as single country, but each of the country's provinces is larger than many European countries, both in geographic size and population," said Carson.

"In addition, there is a wide range in economic development and wealth from one province to the next, as well as major differences in population growth, all of which has an effect on energy consumption that cannot be easily addressed in models based upon aggregate national data."

Aufhammer said the results showed the "emissions growth rate is surpassing our worst expectations, and that means the goal of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 is going to be much, much harder to achieve."

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